The Art Of Gemstone Settings: 10 Popular Stone Setting Styles For Jewellery
Equally, if not more important, than a gorgeous gemstone is the style of stone setting, which plays a significant role in determining how a precious stone will end up looking in jewellery. The right gemstone setting amplifies a gem’s assets, whether those are its colour, sparkle, or a specific optical effect. For instance, if you have a stunning, icy diamond, you’ll want to put it in a prong setting to show off its finest quality: its brilliance. If you have a juicy green emerald, you may want to create contrast with micro diamonds in a halo setting to make the emerald look as lush as possible.
Below, we’ll introduce the most common gemstone settings used in jewellery design, as well as their advantages and disadvantages. Whether it’s a wedding ring, a meaningful necklace pendant, or a pair of every day earrings, you’ll be equipped to make an informed choice that will put a gemstone in its best light.
What is gemstone setting?
Stonesetting is the way that gemstones are secured into jewellery, which relates to aesthetics and protecting the precious stones.
Different gem setting methods highlight the particular characteristics of certain gemstones and types of cuts. Jewellery stone setting is also informed by your lifestyle, taking into consideration the nature of your job, if you frequently do physically vigorous activity, or if you often do household chores, so that your gemstone is well-preserved.
Types of gemstone settings
It’s generally agreed that there are four basic setting styles: prong, bezel, channel, and bead. However, thousands of modified setting styles for pendants, rings, and earrings have evolved from these base styles. In the following list of types of gem settings, we’ll detail the aesthetic and practical pros and cons of each style.
The most common setting type in rings, the prong setting (or claw setting, as it’s generally called outside the US) is made up of thin pieces of metal extending up from the ring band that hold the gem on its sides. Viewed from the top, the prongs appear to perfectly cradle the precious stone’s edges.
In a prong-set ring, the gem is put on full display, visible from all angles and letting light pass through it from all angles for maximum sparkle. However, this also means that the stone is more likely to get scratched on surfaces or snag on fabric because the stone juts out from the band.
The prongs also require proper maintenance, as they can become loose over years of wear. If, when you hold your ring by the band and shake it, you hear rattling, that means the prongs have become misshapen or thinned, jeopardising the stone’s setting.
Variations on the prong setting, differing in the number, size, and shape of the prongs themselves, include:
- Basket setting: In addition to the vertical prongs supporting the gemstone, there are one or more horizontal bands creating a cross or hatch-like appearance.
- Compass setting: There are four claws oriented in the North, South, West, and East directions of the stone. This is a modern alternative to the traditional ‘box’
- V prong: Used on square-cut diamonds, each claw ends in a V shape at each corner.
An illusion setting is a type of prong setting especially used to make a diamond or gemstone look larger than it really is. This effect is accomplished using a metal plate or head that is shaped in a strategic way to reflect light while mimicking the shape of a gemstone, drawing the eye outward to expand the stone’s original borders.
This remains a popular jewellery stone setting type for engagement rings, offering a cost-effective way to ‘stretch’ a diamond.
Besides its optical effect application, this type of gemstone setting can also be used to fit a small gemstone in a large setting space (for example, in an inherited ring or pendant). It’s a relatively affordable setting style, and requires some maintenance as the metal plate can become scratched or faded over time.
In bezel-set jewellery, a metal rim is used to enclose the stone’s edges. In a full bezel setting, the rim completely surrounds the gemstone, protecting the vulnerable fine edges from outer stimuli and securing the stone well, making it unlikely to fall out. Indeed, this type of gem setting is often used with gemstones that are prone to chipping, such as opals or turquoise.
Stones set using this method have a modern, understated look. There are variations to the basic bezel setting, including the following:
- Partial bezel: Alternatively called a semi or open bezel, this is where only a portion of the gemstone’s edges are wrapped.
- Textured bezel: The rims of the bezel setting are made into a certain shape, e.g. scalloped, etched, or rough edges.
In a channel setting, two parallel metal walls hold a row of gemstones in place. Since there are no metal pieces in between the stones, a continuous line of sparkle is achieved. In a ring, the channel setting can continue around the entire circumference (full channel) or half of the circumference (half channel).
This jewellery setting technique is typically used with smaller gemstones, offering fantastic protection from normal wear and tear since no edges are exposed. Gems cut into baguette, square, round, and oval shapes are best suited for this setting type; other shapes may not sit as securely within the channels. The channel setting style lends itself well to jewellery items like tennis bracelets and eternity rings.
An invisible gemstone setting is a relatively new technique used to create the illusion of an undisturbed surface of gemstones without visible metal prongs or bezels. This is similar to the pavé setting but without any claws interrupting the flow of light into and between the stones. The underside of the gems are cut with grooves that fit onto a metal frame on the jewellery, which is then secured with a hidden locking mechanism.
The invisible setting is widely considered to be the most difficult setting to do. They are generally done using square or rectangular shaped stones, such as princess or baguette cuts, since these can be positioned very close together without any extra space in between them.
The bar setting is a play on the channel setting. Here, there are no parallel walls running the length of the jewellery item; rather, a tiny bar in a vertical orientation is placed in between each gemstone. The final product is a more extravagant, gemstone-encrusted appearance.
There are advantages and disadvantages to this variant gemstone setting: more light is allowed to enter the sides of the gems (making this style more common in wedding or engagement rings), but the stones are more exposed to the natural elements.
The cluster setting method is where multiple gemstones are grouped together, usually with one centre gemstone acting as the statement jewel. The advantage of this particular gemstone setting type is it allows lots of creative freedom, where the gems can be mounted into geometric patterns or floral shapes.
A related technique is the halo setting. In this style, smaller stones similarly surround the central stone. Yet, these complementary stones are generally smaller than the accent stones in a cluster setting, are typically round-cut, and serve the main purpose of ‘enlarging’ the look of the main stone. In contrast, cluster settings can look more crowded.
Pavé setting is a popular variant of the basic bead setting (in bead settings, stones are placed in tiny holes that have been drilled into the surface of metal using a jewellery drill called a ‘bur’).
From a quick glance, pavé-set gems can look similar to channel-set gems. However, there are a couple of key differences. Stones can be arranged in a honeycomb pattern rather than simply in a straight line, and claws instead of parallel walls are used to hold the stones in place. The net effect is a glittering surface or blanket of stones.
The pavé setting is versatile, and is usually paired with another setting to create a glamorous piece of jewellery. However, a potential con is that this setting is costlier to do than other setting types because it requires more skill and precision to complete.
Also called burnish setting, this setting method holds a gemstone in place by embedding it into the metal surface so that the gemstone sits flush with the top of the metal. A variation of bead setting, this is done by using a bur to cut a hole slightly smaller than the gemstone, pressing the stone into the hole, and securing it using prongs or beads.
The main advantage of flush-set stones is that they are highly secure and unlikely to become dislodged. These are popular in men’s jewellery because they appear very simple and clean.
A tension jewellery setting type secures a gemstone in place by using the pressure of the metal to grip the gemstone, usually in two spots. This is by cutting two grooves in the metal, without prongs or bezels. The result is an incredibly visually interesting effect where the stone appears to float delicately between two pieces of metal.
Tension setting styles are generally done with resilient metals and round- or oval-shaped gemstones that are high on the Mohs hardness scale, such as rubies, sapphires, and of course, diamonds. The primary advantage of this setting method is its one-of-a-kind look and non-hindrance of light entering the stone from the bottom, top, and sides.
BIRON® is a brand under Inter-Pacific Holdings. Inter-Pacific is an expert in lab-created gemstones, producing or sourcing them in seven beautiful varieties. We work with all types of gemstone-related businesses, including ethical jewellery brands, to access the highest quality lab gemstones in specified colours and sizes at a fraction of the price of Earth-grown gems. On top of this, we can help you design the most flattering gem settings. Book a free consultation today to discuss how we can help you build and develop your conflict-free business.